HOUSTON-There are always a number of intriguing match ups during a day full of games at the Kingwood Classic. One of those match ups today saw the Real Deal on the Hill champions from last weekend face off against the guard heavy Arizona Magic, led by Jerryd Bayless.
Arizona Magic vs. Illinois Warriors
Two high scoring guards in Jerryd Bayless and Isaiah Thomas have teamed up on the Arizona Magic, and they did not fail to get their shots up in a 71-68 win over the Illinois Warriors.
Bayless was the more efficient of the two, hitting for 25 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field and 7 of 7 shooting from the line. He also had a rebound and an assist to go along with 2 turnovers.
Thomas, who just verballed to Washington, scored 12 points on 5 of 15 shooting with no free throw attempts. He also had a rebound, 2 steals and 4 assists to go along with 2 turnovers.
Bayless, who is committed to Arizona, shot the ball very well from three off the ball screen, and his pull up jumper, especially going right is unstoppable. Thomas has the strength and balance to bounce off defenders on his drives and nail the pull up or separate and then attack again on the other side. Thomas also had some nice interior passes after he penetrated the lane.
The not so positive side of the guard duos performance is that they rarely got inside the three-point arc on the defensive side. They were content to reach for the ball instead of moving their feet when guarding on the perimeter, and they only combined for two rebounds in almost 32 minutes of action between the two of them. They are just too talented to only use their athleticism on the offensive end.
Their teammate Zane Johnson knocked down some big shots on the wing, scoring 18 points for the game. Johnson is an above averaged athlete with solid skills and a sweet stroke from three.
He is presently down to Gonzaga, UCLA and USC, with Gonzaga making a strong push for the wing guard.
The Illinois Warriors were led by their fearless point guard Aaron Johnson. He repeatedly got into the lane against the porous Magic defense and either found open teammates or scored himself. Extremely strong and low to the ground with his sure handle, Johnson definitely has the quickness and ball handling skills of a high-major point guard. At his sub 6-foot height, however, he needs to prove that he can keep the defense honest with a reliable outside jumper.
Also looking good for the Warriors was reclassified 2007 forward Manuel Cass. Cass is now playing like a true small forward and has even grown to 6-foot-7, 215-pounds.
After his game, Cass had this comment about his college situation.
"I'm still committed to DePaul, but if things go like I hope they do this summer, I'll open it back up."
He said that he is already hearing from Boston College and Memphis.
A number of underclassmen are competing against their elders in the 17-under division. Greg Monroe and Xavier Gibson are a couple of well known 2008 prospects that we caught a glimpse of today but there were also some others like John Brandenburg that were very impressive during Saturday's action.
Brandenburg competes on every possession at 6-foot-11. He already has decent strength and very good feet and hands. Shoots it with touch and has a jump hook inside. More impressive was how he ran the floor and came up with rebounds and loose balls.
Brett Thompson is another good looking 2008 big man on the St. Louis Eagles. Not quite as athletic as Brandenburg, Thompson is a very good prospect in his own right.
And on the wing for the Eagles there is 2008 prospect Scott Suggs, who has an afro and a game that conjures up thoughts of Josh Childress.
Greg Monroe doesn't get the touches that he needs with the New Orleans Panthers. Nonetheless, he is an elite prospect with his length, broad shoulders and athleticism. He had some very nice offensive rebounds and put backs and also handled the ball proficiently. Duke and a handful of other schools were watching him.
We would still like to see Xavier Gibson work his get more aggressive around the basket and work his way out from the inside, but there is no denying his natural ability and his shooting touch. In fact, Gibson gracefully drove into the lane after shot fakes and finished with runners from the mid-range. He also converted two fast break lay ups after being fouled against the Portland Panthers.
Panthers 2008 prospect Andy Poling struggled against the athletic Columbus Blazers. Poling has a nice skill set and runs the floor, but he does not have the strength and explosiveness right now to consistently finish. He will also body up much better on the defensive end once he gets stronger.
The Mid State Ballerz 16-under team, who is competing in the 17-under division, has a nice one in Scotty Hopson of Hopkinsville, Ky. Hopson is a skilled athlete at 6-foot-5. He slashes to the basket, has a nice pull up jumper and can shoot it from the arc. He is still a little raw and tends to avoid contact, but Hopson has the kind of upside that had Oliver Purnell of Clemson and assistants from Texas and Mississippi State in an obscure gym to check him out.
Playing in the 17-under division, the M33M Ballers from Memphis are loaded with mid to high-major underclass prospects, including point guards Erik Buggs and Kallen Cade along with wings Elliott Williams, Terrico White, Laurence Bowers, Darrell Neal, Jarvis Jones and Derrick Mason.
Troy Gillenwater of the H-squad made a name for himself last weekend in Las Vegas with a strong showing against Gary Johnson. Today he displayed the physical play on the boards and an attacking offensive style that has coaches like Bill Self watching him. He also shot the mid-range shot well off the pass.
And once again, J'Covan Brown was impressive today. He shoots it effortlessly from deep three-point range. He can terrorize the ball on defense. And he can get anywhere he wants on the court with the ball. The game comes very, very easy to him.
While Ben Howland and Roy Williams watched Kevin Love play an afternoon game in the Kingwood headquarters main gym, Coach K watched Kyle Singler in an adjacent gym. Jim Calhoun was also in attendance at the SoCal All Stars' game watching Brandon Jennings
Also from the H-squad, Tyrone Shelley has a body ready for the rigors of high-major basketball and some athleticism to go with it. Shelley has a solid stroke from outside although he was not hitting in his first two games today. Has room for improvement as a handler and passer.
Nate Miles, a reclassified 2007 prospect with the Cornerstone Church XII squad, is a scoring machine. In less than one half of action, the 6-foot-6 combo guard hit 15 points, including a floater off the glass from the wing, a three coming off a down screen and two hop back threes, one going left and one going right.